09/14/05 — In an emergency: N.C. is ready in ways that Louisiana apparently was not

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In an emergency: N.C. is ready in ways that Louisiana apparently was not

There are going to be a lot of questions asked over the next few weeks and months about what went wrong or right in New Orleans.

And there seems to be plenty of blame and credit to go around.

But there also seems to be mounting evidence that there were more than a few people at the local and state levels in Louisiana who simply did not have any sort of real plan for what to do if there was a hurricane.

And all you have to do is look at what happened here in North Carolina when the area was simply threatened by a tropical storm to see that something went wrong in New Orleans.

Within hours of confirmation that Ophelia — in whatever form — was headed for the North Carolina coast, a state of emergency was declared and evacuations started.

Authorities had shelters mobilized, and emergency workers were ready.

It seems pretty unlikely that this region would have experienced the seeming disarray that hit New Orleans. North Carolina officials took Ophelia’s threat seriously and took action. There would have been an even swifter response if there had been a Katrina barreling down on our coast.

New Orleans is a coastal city with very well known disadvantages related to its location. City and state officials should have known this day would come — and have been prepared to handle the resulting displaced population, many of whom had no way to get out of the city on their own.

This nation is going to have a pretty big bill from Katrina — and many surrounding states are going to have to deal with the resulting crush of evacuees for many months. While those states will open their hearts to their neighbors, there also has to be a plan to get the evacuees settled into jobs and lives here, or a way to get them back to homes and jobs in Louisiana.

Getting New Orleans back on its feet is going to take a lot of hard work. It is a task that should be a partnership between private and public entities.

But as we rebuild it, we need to think about how to make sure the infrastructure and plans are in place, just in case another Katrina — or worse — hits its shores.

And then, there are a whole lot of people who ought to be ready to look hard for some answers about what went wrong and what could have been done better.

That is the responsible way to handle this tragedy.

Published in Editorials on September 14, 2005 9:08 AM